An Eastern Threat to the Iron Throne

The fantasy genre has enjoyed a resurgence over the last decade, with the revival of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings franchises, along with the emergence of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. The gang from Westeros (that’s the fictional world that Game of Thrones takes place in) is without a doubt the most popular among modern fantasy fans, but another franchise is rapidly building its own dedicated following. It might be familiar with fans of role-playing video games. And while it shares the genre with Game of Thrones, it’s ultimately a completely different tale.

The Witcher is series of short stories and novels penned by Polish writer Adrzej Sapkowski. The main character, Geralt of Rivia, is – you guessed it – a witcher, the common name given to a small group of professional monster hunters. Sapkowski’s witchers are humans, which through training and mysterious experiments, have developed superhuman skills including lightning reflexes, the ability to harness basic magic, and enhanced senses. Because of their abilities, they’re often lumped together with monsters, elves, dwarves and other non-humans as “mutants.”

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Sapkowski’s series focuses almost entirely on Geralt’s adventures, whereas Game of Thrones delves deep into family politics and the struggle for the Iron Throne. The difference allows The Witcher to be more of a ‘true’ fantasy series because there is more action, magic and other traditional themes. Then again, the lightness of GoT’s fantasy may be part of the reason behind its popularity. That, or the sex.

And that’s where the similarities between the two series are obvious. Geralt, like the men of Westeros, certainly has an appetite for the female form. In the books and video games, the witcher has multiple romantic encounters, often with women who know their way around magic. Those scenes are often quite funny because witcher training reduces humans from emotional into methodical beings. And frankly, video game sex scenes are always a little awkward, even when compared to some of the darker rape scenes in the Game of Thrones TV series.

There is a growing community, especially on reddit, that would love to see HBO or a similar network produce a series based on The Witcher franchise. There were European film and TV adaptations based on the series, but they were widely rejected by critics and Sapkowski himself. If a new version were to be developed, producers would be wise to look to CD Projeckt Red, the Polish company behind The Witcher video game trilogy. All of the games scored very positive reviews, particularly the third and last installment. More than four million copies of The Witcher: Wild Hunt were sold in its first two weeks, and it’s getting early praise as a potential game of the year winner.

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If a TV series based on The Witcher could be produced with the same quality as the video games, it could potentially challenge the dominance of Game of Thrones. It seems a bit far-fetched, though, given the dramatic and political focus of GoT, which likely broadens its audience outside of traditional fantasy fans. But, a well-done version of The Witcher would certainly be a hit among those who love the genre. Fortunately, the fantasy faithful can get their fix through the books.

Sapkowski’s series spans eight publications consisting of two books of short stories and six novels. So far, five of them have been officially translated to English, with three more slated for release in the next few years. Anyone interested in an action-packed, traditional fantasy story meshed with the undercurrents of politics and romance should definitely give the books a read. Start with The Last Wish. And if you’ve got a PS4, Xbox One or a high-end PC, and 100 hours to kill, you should definitely give the game a try.

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